We all know from experience that Mines is a rough school. Academic rigor is good for producing solid engineers, but the experience of school here can be stressful and difficult at times. Projects, midterms, and finals can make many students sacrifice sleep or their social lives to get a (potentially) better grade. While studying and grinding for hours into the early morning might seem like the best way to secure the best grade, the mental health consequences of losing sleep and being constantly stressed are serious, and may be a detriment to performing well in school.
Sleep is incredibly beneficial to mental health and academic performance, and according to a study by the National Institutes of Health, college students almost never get enough of it. The study states that college-aged people need 8 hours of sleep per night. That probably sounds ridiculously high, and the data shows that 70.6% of college students surveyed get less than 8 hours of sleep per night. In an architecture school in the Midwest, researchers found that only 4% of students sleep more than 7 hours per night, with an average of 5.7 hours per night. Students at this school also reported doing an average of 2.7 all-nighters per month. Anecdotally, this sounds similar to a lot of Mines students’ experiences. The normalization of bad sleep patterns among college students makes it seem that this is just part of the deal, but these sleep patterns can have severe effects on both mental health and performance in school.
Nearly every student at Mines is concerned about keeping a high GPA, and are willing to sacrifice sleep to study and try to improve it. This practice will most likely backfire, however, as sleep deprivation has been tied to significantly lower GPAs. In the same study by the NIH, long sleepers had an average GPA of 3.24, while short sleepers averaged a 2.74. Proper sleep patterns reinforce memory very strongly, whereas sleep deprivation has the opposite effect. All-nighters always seem necessary at the time, but studying early and sleeping more can actually benefit GPA more than studying into the early morning.
More serious than your GPA is your mental health, and poor sleep patterns are shown to have a strong detrimental effect on mental health. The NIH reports a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and depression, stating that sleep debt of 2 hours per night or a bedtime after 2am correlated with increased depressive symptoms. The stress of college already causes many issues related to depression and mental health. Combining this stress with the sleep deprivation associated with it can have drastic mental health consequences.
While many students feel comfortable with their poor sleep schedules, the benefits of a good sleep schedule are too significant to ignore. I’ve heard students during finals week one-upping each other over who got less sleep before the exam, and the culture of sleep deprivation seems deeply rooted in the college experience. It’s worth considering going to bed early and having a robust sleep schedule, even if studying for an exam or playing “one more game” of Apex seem like better options. Your mental health is way more important than your GPA, but simply sleeping more can improve both at the same time. So don’t feel guilty the next time you get an early night, your brain and your GPA will be better off for it.
March 4, 2019 @ 10:45 pm Dale Troy
You are so right about the importance of sleep for overall health and for academic performance. Both the number of hours of sleep and the quality of sleep make a huge difference in how students focus and recall information. In addition, there are many other habits that have an affect on academic performance, including: what students eat and drink; whether they exercise; if they practice any stress reduction techniques like meditation; and whether they have a positive mindset.